Saturday, May 24, 2014

Those Redheads From Seattle-1953


From the original, short-lived 3-D boom of the fifties, here we have a picture promoting three things--the gimmick, the legs and the cast. 

It's a nifty idea of a grabber to show the chorus dancing right off the screen. This was a Paramount release so we don't really get ant A list musical performers but Rhonda Fleming was probably THE preeminent redhead of the era so we start out well. Gene Barry, known later for a half dozen or so suave TV series roles on shows like BAT MASTERSON, BURKE'S LAW and THE NAME OF THE GAME, would also go on to make a name for himself in Broadway musicals like LA CAGE AUX FOLLES. Agnes Moorehead, best remembered for BEWITCHED but arguably the best radio actress of them all, was always a welcome presence in films. Teresa Brewer was a then-popular recording star whose career, although never stellar, would stretch another few decades! Guy Mitchell, another long-lived but under the radar pop star, was her male equivalent. By contrast, the Bell Sisters were a flavor of the month singing duo who appeared in a couple of films around this time. 

I don't recognize any of the behind the scenes names and I can't see 3-D but it's a respectable enough cast that if I weren't doing anything, I'd probably go and I'd probably enjoy it...although I doubt I'd remember it a few weeks later. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Ulysses-1954



Maybe it;s just me but I think this one is terrible. Many (most?) people of the day would have been familiar with THE ODYSSEY and other versions of the story of ULYSSES so the fact that it was an adaptation of a classic was the main selling point. The note that it was in Technicolor was a plus as these epics were born for color!

Silvana Mangano looks pretty good there, statuesque...literally. She was an Italian actress but not the fiery type. Her career was solely masterminded by her husband, Producer Dino De Laurentiis, later known as one of the world's most successful international producers. He produced this one with Carlo Ponti, another man whose wife--Sophia Loren--was in pictures!

Where it falls down for me, though, is with Kirk Douglas. Not only is he seemingly miscast but he looks like he's doing just that...falling down!

It's a good movie. I've seen it. But if I had seen this ad first, I'd have passed.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Hollywood Cavalcade-1939


This one is a lovely ad, isn't it? It's only flaw may be that it's in black and white when the picture itself is in glorious technicolor. 

What's being sold here is clear--the Ameche/Faye team, Fox's A-list romantic musical comedy stars PLUS a whole supporting cast full of then still-familiar silent comedians including the one and only Buster Keaton and even cross-eyed Ben Turpin! 

Really not much not to like here. I'd see this one in a heartbeat! 

(And yet, oddly enough, as of this writing I've never SEEN it!)

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Artists and Models-1937


More a photo feature than an ad, this 2 page plug for Jack Benny's ARTISTS AND MODELS may have seemed like a good idea to someone at the time but it's a little too busy and a little too inconsequential to make a difference. Outside of some generic proclamations about how gay and gag-filled the picture is, I couldn't tell you what this movie was about. 

Nice pic of Jack, though. Contrary to popular belief--spurred on by Jack himself--Benny's movies were often quite entertaining. This one offers Judy Canova, Martha Raye and Ben Blue--known laugh-getters all, along with the now forgotten but hilarious Yacht Club Boys. 

And those artists, including Rube Goldberg, Peter Arno and Russell Patterson...What do they have to do with the plot? Who knows? The very title implies sex. After all, artists DRAW models and sometimes those models wear little or nothing when they're being drawn. 

Bottom line, here, though, is Jack Benny. 1937 was a year when Jack's weekly radio show was building to its early peak and he was arguably one of the most famous men in the country. They could have left out everything but the image of Jack in this overdesigned ad and I'd still have to say, yes, I'd see it in a heartbeat.

Friday, May 16, 2014

You Belong To Me-1941


Outside of the uncharacteristically giddy look on Henry Fonda's face here, this is a lovely ad with the red shade playing well with the greys of the black and white photo to nice effect. Clearly what's being sold here is the reunion of Fonda and Stanwyck. Even the two guys at right (?) seem interested in said reunion.

Wesley Ruggles was a name to reckon with at the time as director although his cache has faded with time. Former licensed dentist Edgar Buchanan was an impressive character actor in comedies or dramas so he may have well been a selling point as well. 

You can tell this is meant to be a romantic comedy but that's about all you can tell. According to IMDB, it's actually pretty dull and even bad in spots, with original story by the controversial Dalton Trumbo. The thing is, you can't tell any of that from this ad either. 

Would I see it? I might have been disappointed but, at the time, I'd have to say yes. 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Gunga Din-1939


It's a goofy-looking title now but in 1939 Rudyard Kipling's poem would have been much better known than it is today. That said, it was (and is) a poem, not a story, so the casual reader would have been intrigued as to what additional story the already legendary screenwriters Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur had added to it through the lesser known credited screenwriters. Seems to be a foreign legion tale. Those were quite popular in those days.  And look at those faces, laughing, lusty adventurers all! Fairbanks, Jr. was probably the biggest draw at that point with Grant just starting to reach his stride. Both were known for neat, clean roles and in this one they were about to get messy. 

Victor McLaglen, Eduardo Cianelli, Sam Jaffe (in the title role but you couldn't tell that from this ad) and a young Joan Fontaine, familiar names all, round out the heralded cast and George Stevens produces and directs. 

Would I have seen it based on this ad? Absolutely. And I'd have loved it!

The Citadel-1938


Undoubtedly more recognizable then than he is today, the now nearly forgotten Robert Donat's image highlights this ad. The main selling point, though, is the fact that it comes from a big name book. The presumption seems to be that one is already familiar with said book. If not, only the word "doctor" in the text hints that this is a medical drama. But even that doesn't reveal the British Isles setting thereof.  The casting of Rosalind Russell doesn't help as she is not British. Althogh she'd already had a number of major film appearances prior to this, her greatest triumphs were still ahead of her, starting 2 years later with HIS GIRL FRIDAY.

The chameoeon-like Donat is probably best remembered for his roles in Hitchcock's 39 STEPS as well as for his Oscar-winning turn in the following year's GOODBYE MR. CHIPS.

King Vidor's name as director might have indicated to some that this was to be a heavy, message picture. Vidor, although an excellent filmmaker, was the Stanley Kramer of his day, specializing in "relevant" filmmaking. 

The supporting cast list shows the always welcome Ralph Richardson and the young Rex Harrison. Rex could be a fun presence in films through the years but he is here still nearly 3 decades out from his surprising mid-life super-stardom that came via MY FAIR LADY and led to DR. DOLITTLE.


The book itself continues to sell to this day and was generally stocked when I was managing bookstores up through 2008.

Bottom line: It's a pretty ad, well-designed and eye-catching but not particularly informative. I think I'd have to pass.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Dr. Cyclops-1940


Nothing not to like on this one. An imposing figure with a clever incorporation into the title of the picture and a semi-comic strip at the bottom with drawn scenes. You quickly get the idea that the humans are being made tiny and that the Doctor, described here as "diabolical," is not a nice fella! The sort of special effects promised in this ad were far from the norm in 1940 so that was also a treat to anticipate. 

Albert Dekker stars but he was probably not a recognizable name. A great character actor for many years, this was, I believe, his first starring role. His only one maybe? He would ultimately meet a tragic end as would listed co-star Victor Kilian. But no one could have suspected that in 1940. But an evil doctor, shrunken people and secret rays. I would have been SO there in 1940!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Dante's Inferno-1935


Were they kidding? WAY too much print here. What seems designed to be the attention-grabber is the word "Hell" at top. Considered a rather strong no-no word in those days, its block letters are even underlined here for emphasis. Tells us...what? If you already know the story of DANTE'S INFERNO, then you know it DOES deal with Hell. What you don't know is that this isn't THAT story anyway. There's no clue about that in the text.

Spencer Tracy was still an up and comer at this stage, as was Claire Trevor, neither yet at the peak of their abilities or their drawing powers. And with the whole ad looking more overall like the cover of some "end-of-the-world" pamphlet delivered to your door by a couple of well-dressed folks while you're trying to sleep in on a Saturday morning, I would most definitely pass on this one!

The Dark Angel-1935


This ad has a masterful, stylish design that would most definitely get one's attention even now. The iconic looking image of actress Merle Oberon draws your eyes and the searchlights pull them down to her co-stars. Frederic March had already been in the business for 14 years with some major leading roles behind him and plenty more still ahead of him. In this particular case, this role had, in fact, been meant for Leslie Howard but that fell through when he ended his love affair with Oberon. March was brought in reluctantly. No way you could tell any of that from this ad, though. All it implies is a love triangle and a war setting, and that's what you get. Third wheel Herbert Marshall never quite had that breakthrough role in films although he worked steadily for nearly 4 decades in spite of having lost a leg in the real World War I. He did have a long-running radio series.

Would I go see this. Definitely got my attention. Sure. I'm in.

Love On the Run-1936


As I've said before, it's all about what you want to sell. In this case it's Gable romancing Crawford, period. Clark was the King of Hollywood that year and Crawford, at her own peak of success, had been one of his most popular leading ladies so here she was again. Simple as that.

If you wanted to look closer, you'd see that Woody Van Dyke was directing, he of the great THIN MAN movies. If you followed the gossip columns of the day, you'd likely recognize that co-star Franchot Tone had then just recently become Joan's new husband in real life.

The clever title image with the romantic heart running gave little info as to the picture's plot except to hint strongly of a similarity to Gable's recent Oscar winner for Columbia, IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT. Subtle here...but not in the movie itself. It really was pretty close to the same plot.

Would this ad have made me see it then? If I were a movie fan at all in the thirties, this ad would have told me everything I need to know about LOVE ON THE RUN. So, yes. I'm there.

Under Eighteen-1932


Sex sells and that's all they're pushing here. A buzzword title even then, UNDER EIGHTEEN was a highly hyped follow-up to young and sexy Marian Marsh's appearance in SVENGALI. She WAS a star. 1932 was her year. She literally has a spotlight on her here and looks like she's about to strip. Unfortunately, what was about to be stripped was her momentum. UNDER EIGHTEEN didn't do well at all and Marsh rebelled, resulting in Warners dropping her contract and her career never again reaching the lofty heights where she was at this exact moment in time. 

Oh, and there's good ol' reliable Warren William down there, too, mentioned pretty much as an afterthought. What's this picture about? Who knows? And certainly no one cared.

I would have passed this one by in a second unless I was a particularly big fan of Ms. Marsh. 

Kidnapped-1938


This illustration is by Saul Tepper, a  prolific illustrator (and songwriter!) who was an excellent choice for the material. Unfortunately so much of the image is lost to the layout.

The selling point here would have been Robert Louis Stevenson. Movies based on classic books by big name authors were all the rage and this was the first time, as it points out, that the TREASURE ISLAND author's supposed favorite of his works had hit the screen.

Warner Baxter, quintessentially American, seems odd casting in spite of the legend under his name on the poster, but young and popular Freddie Bartholomew, who had already made a career out of these classics adaptations, was a real draw.

Newcomer Arleen Whelan, another American, worked for about 25 years but generally under the radar. She had been discovered by a director as a manicurist and brought to the attention of Darryl Zanuck who decided to make her a star! Knowing what we know now about that sort of thing--and a bout Zanuck--you wonder.

Beyond that, though the best of the Hollywood British colony were trotted out to fill the roles in this Scottish boys' adventure story.

Direction was by Alfred Wexler who had done the prestigious but now forgotten HOUSE OF ROTHSCHILD.  That and the fact that no less than four writers are listed are not exactly selling points. When that many are needed to adapt a simple, classic story, you know they've messed with it quite a bit.

The Verdict? Would this ad have made me want to see the movie? Close...but no.



Saturday, May 10, 2014

Panama Hattie-1942


Here's an example of a busy ad that works. Whoever designed this knew what they were selling: Sex, in the central figure of Ann Sothern, laughs in the close-up on Red Skelton's face (and the line on his hat referencing his radio catch phrase), and the fact that Middle America could now see a hit Broadway musical they had only read about during its Broadway run. Of course, Middle America didn't yet realize that these things sometimes had little in common with the originals by the time they hit the screen.

The blue highlights the right areas without being distracting and there's just enough smaller images to intrigue and not make the rest harder to see.

The music is by Cole Porter "and others," the latter not necessarily being a good sign. That said, one of the songs listed is "Just One of Those Things" which, now, is considered a major classic! I don't know this for certain but something tells me "The Son-Of-A-Gun Who Picks On Uncle Sam" was written by "others."

Arthur Freed musicals from MGM are nearly all choice and Freed's name would have most likely  been a selling point already in the wake of WIZARD OF OZ, STRIKE UP THE BAND and BABES ON BROADWAY. The cast is good with my fellow Kentuckian Rags Ragland who had already appeared both in several of Red's pictures as well as several of Ann's MAISIE series. Deadpan comic singer Virginia O'Brien was a scream and was later to be married to Kirk SUPERMAN Alyn. Already veterans, Alan Mowbray and Ben Blue round out the cast with Marsha Hunt, unknown to me but still alive at age 96 as of this writing. Ms. Hunt worked steadily from the mid-1930s until 1988 with a couple of additional credits as recent as 2008!

Verdict: Would I have seen this movie just based on this ad? Yes!

Louisiana Purchase-1941


I like the basic layout of this ad but I question the choice of photos and the use of red as the sole color. It was 1941 and Bob Hope was not yet the superstar he was soon to become due to his WWII efforts to entertain the troops. At this time, he was mainly known as a fast-talking radio comic who had been in a handful of entertaining motion pictures like THE CAT AND THE CANARY, GHOST BREAKERS and the first two ROAD movies. So what is our central image here? A hapless looking Hope dressed as a king and yet looking like a fool...literally. And then the choice to have him in that same outfit directly underneath that. The red may have been chosen to highlight the lipstick in the two side images but by highlighting Bob’s lips in the main image, it adds to the overall clown look. The Technicolor is hyped but the ad itself would have looked better in black and white rather than with just the red. Lots of pretty girls in those other images, signifying the advertised “100 Louisiana Belles,” but they’re kind of generic even by the standards of the day and just give the whole ad an overly busy look. Finally, by having nearly ALL the wording including the cast and the title at an angle, the reader has to make an effort (mild though it would have been) to read what SHOULD be just bouncing off the page at him!

The film’s pedigree is great but any time you advertise yourself with taglines like, “the greatest musical comedy ever filmed!” you’re just asking for it. Music and lyrics by Irving Berlin but not a big hit among the songs listed here. Based on the musical comedy by Morrie Ryskind who provided the Marx Brothers with some of their best set pieces...only he didn’t do the actual screenplay here. And speaking of which, what’s this picture about anyway? Nota  clue in the entire ad!

As far as the cast, Hope was at an early peak in this period. Whiny Victor Moore was pretty much a ringer, an always welcome character comic. But Vera Zorina? She was a ballet dancer who was, in fact, married to the great George Ballanchine at the time. Sad to say she did NOT have the drawing power of Dorothy Lamour or Jane Russell or the harem of leading ladies Hope came to be known for soon enough.  


Based on this ad, would I have gone to see the picture in 1941? No.